Posts Tagged ‘Feinwerkbau’
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Happy Thanksgiving! This is the day Americans set aside to remember the things we’re thankful for as we eat a feast of traditional turkey.
A couple days ago, blog reader Rob asked for my list of most-favorite spring guns and why they’re my favorites, so I thought today would be a good day to do that. So, here goes. I’m doing only the springers, because that’s what he asked for. What you’re about to read is by no means a complete list of airguns that I like.
Diana model 27
I bought my first Diana model 27 air rifle from a pawn shop in Radcliff, Kentucky, when I was stationed at Fort Knox in the 1970s. It was tired-looking and rusty but still shot like every 27 does — smooth and straight. This one was a Hy Score 807. I never tuned it because I didn’t know about such things in those days. I just shot it offhand as a plinker. That rifle cocked so easily that shooting it was like eating peanuts — I just couldn’t stop! I never did figure out the trigger, though. It wasn’t until I read the owner’s manual for a Diana 35 about 20 years later that I figured out how to adjust the trigger on this rifle. Today, I own 2 model 27 rifles and a model 25 rifle that I’ve been testing. And these are some of my favorite airguns.
Because of my involvement with airguns, I’ve owned quite a few target air rifles over the years. There have been some real beauties, including FWB 150 rifles, Diana 75 airguns and Anschütz 250 air rifles. Because I’m always buying and selling, there have been several of each. But the FWB 300S, which I got a couple years ago from my good friend Mac, has come to stay. That’s because it’s the most accurate air rifle I’ve ever owned. By “most accurate,” I’m being extremely critical. I’m talking about the last thousandth of an inch. I have other 10-meter air rifles that are very accurate — and over the years, I’ve had many more that were also very accurate — but for some reason, this particular rifle is the best one I’ve come across.
Okay, here’s where I’ll have a problem as a writer. I’ve just said the FWB 300S is the most accurate air rifle I’ve ever owned, yet this R8 is a phenomenal shooter, as well. You last saw it in the report titled First shot: Yes or no?, where I fired 10 first shots at 25 yards to see how accurate they would be. But I did a three-part report for you back in 2010, where I showed the rifle to you. This rifle was a special gift that came at a particularly rough time in my life, and just the thought that came with it is enough to make it a favorite. But the way this finely-tuned rifle shoots makes it a keeper on its own merits. It cocks easily and puts each pellet exactly where I want it to go. The Tyrolean stock fits me very well, and I just smile every time I pick this one up. I cannot say enough good things about it. I’ve never even seen a plain Beeman R8 before, so I have no idea if they’re worthwhile or not. All I know is that this tuned one is a keeper!
I bought the Whiscombe air rifle to use as a testbed for airgun articles, and that’s how it’s been used over the years. You’ve seen it several times — most recently in the 11-part Pellet velocity versus accuracy test. Unlike my other favorites, I don’t shoot the Whiscombe that often. The size and weight of the rifle plus the need to cock the underlever three times per shot makes it less than convenient. But I rely on it a lot and would not like to be without it.
Air Arms TX200 Mark III
One spring rifle I own and love that is still available new is a TX200 Mark III. The Air Arms TX200 is simply the finest spring rifle being made today, in my opinion. It’s heavy and can be considered hard to cock; but it has the best trigger on the market, and the rifle is deadly accurate. This is another air rifle I don’t shoot a lot anymore, but that’s because I’m always testing something else. There is no time left to enjoy the stuff I really like. This is the last spring rifle I used for field target competition; and as far as I know, it’s second to none in that capacity. The thing I like best about the TX200 is that I know I can recommend it to someone and they won’t be disappointed. Right out of the box, it shoots like a finely tuned air rifle.
Daisy has changed the name of this BB gun several times over the years, but the Avanti Champion 499 is the gun I’m talking about. It’s a BB gun that can put 10 shots through a quarter-inch hole at the regulation competition distance of five meters — offhand! Like the TX200, the 499 is still available and is one of the best buys in airgundom, in my opinion. Adults can shoot it and have as much fun as the kids for whom it was built.
Air Venturi Bronco
I would be remiss if I didn’t include the Air Venturi Bronco on my list. This is a rifle I had a hand in creating, and I did so with the Diana 27 in mind. I wanted a modern rifle that incorporated as many of the 27’s fine features as possible and still held the price low enough to enjoy. The Bronco certainly is that rifle. The two-bladed trigger is especially clever and tells the shooter exactly when the shot is going off. I know some folks don’t like the blonde stock or the Western lines, but I personally like both features. There are too many air rifles with muddy brown stocks on the market, and every one of them seems to have a Monte Carlo comb. But not the Bronco. It’s an individual air rifle that stands on its own.
The one that got away
There’s always at least one, isn’t there? This one came and delighted me while I had it. It’s the Sterling HR-81 that I got in trade at the Roanoke airgun show. It wasn’t working well when I got it, but Vince fixed it for me; and afterward, it was a wonderful shooter. This rifle had sights that were cheap and prone to break, and the ones on my gun were already gone when I got it. But a scope fit well, and the low recoil of the gun made securing it to the rifle an easy task. The trigger is light and (after Vince looked at it) crisp.
The firing behavior is good, though the rifle has a pronounced forward jump. Besides that, the rifle lies dead in the hand when it fires. And the accuracy is quite surprising — fully equal to my Beeman R8. When you cock the underlever, the spring-loaded bolt pops open giving access to the loading trough, making loading very easy and convenient.
What the future holds
I currently have the Falke 90 stock being restored, which will be a blog of its own. If the job turns out well, I can see that rifle becoming a favorite. It started as a gun that was practically forced on me at an airgun show. It was so dog-ugly that despite the extreme rarity (fewer than 200 are believed to have been produced) that even collectors who know very well what it’s worth declined to even make an offer on it when I had it for sale at this year’s Roanoke show. So I thought, what the heck, I’ll have it restored and then we’ll see what people think. Blog reader Kevin turned me on to a wonderful stock restorer who has the entire rifle now. There are a huge number of critical faults with the stock, so he’s really up against it; but if he can do even half of what I see he’s done for other damaged stocks, this project will turn out very well.
What I didn’t include
What about the Beeman R1? I wrote a book about it, for gosh sakes. Surely, it has to be one of my favorites! Sorry to disappoint, but no, it isn’t. I still like it a lot, but it isn’t the gun I pick up when I want to have fun.
What about an HW55? They’re so accurate! Why aren’t they on the list? Don’t know, for sure. They just aren’t.
OMG — I overlooked the FWB 124! No, I didn’t. I thought about it a lot, and it just didn’t make the cut.
Rob asked me for my favorite spring airguns, and I’ve listed them. Maybe I forgot one, but I don’t think so. No, there aren’t any spring-piston pistols that I consider to be favorites.
Among my firearms, I have several rifles that are tackdrivers. Then there’s my dog-ugly, but nearly-new No. 4 Enfield. It’s not super-accurate and certainly no beauty. But for some reason, I can’t bear to part with it. So, it remains in my collection, getting shot once a year or so. Something I can’t define makes it a favorite, and I guess that will just have to suffice.
I have one last thing to say. Two years ago, I was recovering from a serious illness that brought me pretty close to the brink. I still had a drain in my pancreas, and there was an undiscovered hernia festering in me that wouldn’t surface until the night I was due to fly to the 2011 SHOT Show. My eyesight was degraded from dehydration and serious anemia, plus I was suffering from undiagnosed Type 1 diabetes. In short, it was a bad time.
You readers banded together and supported Edith and me for the long months it took to get through this tunnel of horrors. You put up with a lot, and we owe all of you a debt of gratitude that cannot be repaid. For what you all did for us, we are very thankful.
by B.B. Pelletier
Today, I’ll test my Beeman R1 air rifle for velocity, plus show you the differences between the standard Rekord trigger and the special match Rekord trigger. Before I get to the velocity figures, however, let me give you a brief history of some of the many tunes that have been in this gun.
After 1,000 shots were on this rifle, it was shooting Crosman Premiers at an average 770 f.p.s. The rifle took 46 lbs. of effort to cock and shot with a little buzziness, indicating the powerplant had some looseness.
Following that test, the rifle went through a series of tunes that are way too numerous to cover here. One that’s of interest was the Beeman Laserization that was so popular in the 1980s and early ’90s. Beeman would do this tune for a price, or you could buy all the parts and do it yourself. I elected to do the latter.
The Laser seal came way oversized and had to be reduced to fit the particular gun in which it was installed. That was thought to be a superior way of tuning in those days, though today I see generic seals that work just as well without all the fuss.
I had a problem fitting the first seal, and it burned on one edge from excessive friction. I got a replacement and sized it a bit looser. You never want to lube a Lazerized rifle, as the special Beeman Laser Lube is the best stuff for friction. This lube is no longer sold. If you have a worn-out Laser seal, just about any modern generic seal can replace it with no loss of energy.
The Laser spring was weaker than the factory spring, making the rifle easier to cock. After I applied the tune and broke it in a little, my rifle averaged 765 f.p.s. with Crosman Premiers. Cocking effort was 37 lbs., which is an 11-lb. reduction for almost the same power. That’s significant!
The one thing I didn’t like about Laserization was the fact that the gun vibrated a lot more than before. That Laser spring fit the piston and guide so loosely that the only way to quiet the gun was to use Mainspring Dampening Compound on the mainspring — which subtracted velocity at the same time.
The absolute best tune I ever applied to the R1 was a Mag80 Laza Tune I got from from Ivan Hancock. It was a drop-in tune that included a buttoned piston and a long mainspring that came coated with something I called black tar in print the first time I wrote about it. After that, the airgun community seized on the term, and black tar became a product — though nothing that was ever sold separately was as viscous as the stuff on that Venom spring.
This tune took the R1 up over 22 foot-pounds with absolute zero vibration. It was so smooth I thought it had actually lost power. But the 50-pound cocking effort reminded me that the big spring was doing its thing. For reference, Crosman Premiers averaged 809 f.p.s. with this tune.
Unfortunately that spring was included in my Mainspring Failure Test, that left four different tunes cocked for one month to see the effects. The spring finally canted and was never as smooth afterward!
I also tested a gas spring made by Vortek. It was smooth and did make better than 20 foot-pounds with certain pellets, but it also took 50 pounds of effort to cock, so I have since removed it from the rifle. The gas spring put Premier pellets out the muzzle at around 790-795 f.p.s.
The tune that’s in the rifle now is a weak mainspring and a generic piston seal. Everything is moly-ed and I have used a touch of Black Tar on the mainspring to calm it down. Today we will all see what velocity the rifle currently develops with this tune, which can be researched in its entirety in the 13-part report titled Spring Gun Tune.
The first pellet I tested was that old standard — the Crosman Premier. I have given you the velocities for this pellet at various stages of the rifle’s life, so you can compare them to how it’s doing now. With the current tune the rifle shoots Premiers an average 743 f.p.s. The range runs from a low of 738 f.p.s. to a high of 751 f.p.s., so an extreme spread of 13 f.p.s. Given the pellet’s average 14.3-grain weight, the rifle produces 17.53 foot-pounds at the muzzle with Premiers. I noticed they fit the breech on the loose side, but were still what I would consider a good fit.
The rifle now cocks with just 33 pounds of effort, which is where I like it. It weighs 11 pounds on the nose, and you have to allow a little over one of those pounds for that big Bushnell Trophy 6-16 scope and mounts.
Next I tried RWS Superdomes, another domed pellet like the Premier but made of pure lead and just slightly heavier, at 14.5 grains. These averaged 742 f.p.s. in the test rifle and ranged from a low of 733 to a high of 748 f.p.s. So a 15 foot-second spread. At the average velocity this pellet produces 17.73 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. The fit was loose in the breech.
Then I tried the heavier 15.43-grain Gamo Hunter. This dome fit the breech loose but also varied a lot in the seating pressure required, which indicates variability in the size. They averaged 706 f.p.s. and ranged from 700 to 710 f.p.s., which is a tight spread of just 10 f.p.s. At the average velocity these pellets produced 17.08 foot-pounds of energy.
The final pellet I tested was the 15.9-grain JSB Exact dome. These averaged 696 f.p.s. and ranged from 693 to 701 f.p.s., so the spread was just 8 f.p.s. — the tightest of the test. The fit of this pellet was loose in the breech. At the average velocity this pellet produced 17.11 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.
I mentioned that the trigger in the R1 is a standard Rekord, and when I reported on the HW55 target rifles, I had mentioned that they all have special match Rekord triggers. Weihraiuch now calls all of their Rekord triggers match triggers, but back when the 55 was still being offered they differentiated between the trigger in that gun, which they called a match trigger and the one they used in every other sporting rifle. The latter was just called a Rekord.
This is the standard Rekord trigger that’s on my R1. Paul Watts gave me the smooth trigger blade to replace the Weihrauch grooved blade that comes on the trigger, but otherwise the trigger unit is stock. I have adjusted and lubricated it, of course.
The match trigger also has no provisions for a safety, in contrast to the standard Rekord. Target guns are seldom provided with safeties, as their shooters are expected to be cognizant of safe shooting at all times.
The match Rekord has an aluminum collar around the trigger adjustment screw that is used to lock the screw after adjustment. This collar is turned by hand-pressure, only, so it is knurled on the outside to provide a better grip. Let’s sample the R1 trigger against an HW55-CM trigger and see how they differ in use.
The R1 trigger breaks cleanly at 1 pound 1 ounce — a little lighter than the recommended 1 pound 8 ounces that the Beeman instructions used to recommend. You have to remember that I have shot this rifle extensively since it was new and I have worked on the trigger, as well.
The match Rekord in my HW55 CM breaks at 7 ounces, or just less than half of where the standard Rekord goes off. It is considered very safe at this low pressure setting, because of both the design of the Rekord and that fact that a target shooter will be handling the rifle.
The two Rekord triggers are dimensionally the same. The proof of that is my HW55 SF that is an HW50 with this trigger instead of the normal Rekord that’s found on the HW50s. Back when the 55SF was made, the HW 50 was a different model than today, but the same gun could accept either trigger.
Should you swap your trigger?
The question that always comes up when I tell people about these two triggers is why not just adjust a standard Rekord to have a pull weight equal to the match trigger? The answer is the match trigger isn’t designed to hold back pistons that are compressing powerful mainsprings like those found in an R1 — or even in lesser sporting rifles. And, if you were to install a match trigger in a sporting rifle, you would be doing the same thing. So leave the trigger that came with the gun where it is and be safe.
That’s it for today. Next we will look at the accuracy potential of this rifle.
by B.B. Pelletier
Before someone jumps on me for repeating a blog report, I’m aware that there was a three-part blog of a Beeman R1 tested by Mac in 2010. That was a test of a brand-new Beeman R1 Elite Series Combo. Today, I am starting a report on the 18 year-old R1 that pretty much started things for me as an airgun writer.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about heirloom airguns. You know what I mean — the kind of airguns that never get old. They stick around and get remodeled and updated because everyone loves them. And everyone loves them because, at their hearts, they’re built to last.
What could epitomize this more (for me) than the very Beeman R1 air rifle I used to write my book? It all began in 1976, when I bought the first edition of Airgun Digest in the Stars and Stripes bookstore at Ferris Barracks in Erlangen, Germany. That book introduced me to Robert Beeman and he, in turn, showed me the awesome Feinwerkbau 124 pellet rifle. Never mind that I was living in the city where the excellent BSF airguns were then being made (and I didn’t know it). I wanted an FWB 124 so bad it hurt.
By the time I returned to San Jose in November 1977, I wanted a 124 so bad that I drove straight up to San Rafael and bought one at the Beeman store. I was king of the world for several years with that air rifle, until, at the end of 1981, the R1 was announced. Suddenly, I was a man without an airgun, because technology had trumped my 124.
You might expect me to have responded instantly to the change, but I wasn’t exactly what you would call an airgunner in those days. I shot them, for sure, but I still thought of myself as a firearms guy who also had some airguns. And even when it was brand new in the winter of 1981, the R1 sold for almost $300. So it went on the back burner. It wasn’t until 1991, 10 years and a new wife later, that I finally got my R1. It was a Christmas gift from Edith who thought that because I could speak of nothing else when it came to airguns, I must have wanted one. Women — go figure!
That first R1 was in .177 caliber, because I was still under the mesmerizing trance cast by Herr Doktor Beeman a decade before. A thousand feet per second, and then 1100 f.p.s. was a heady aroma for a new airgunner! Well, it didn’t take very long for me to discover what it meant.
The R1 was huge — much larger than most of the firearms I was shooting at the time. And it was hard to cock! I no longer owned my 124, but I remembered its willingness to move to the cocked position with a light touch. Compared to that, cocking the R1 was like bending the bow of Hercules.
When fired, the big rifle recoiled more than a little. And I couldn’t get it to shoot very well. Perhaps three inches at 50 yards was the best I could get it to do. What a disappointment! I had waited 11 years to dance with the prom queen; and when I did, I discovered that she had B.O. and wasn’t very nice!
I need to insert a note at this point. The R1 wasn’t the first air rifle Edith bought me. A couple years earlier, she gave me a Beeman C1 that I wanted mostly because it was just a fraction of the price of the R1 that was, by this time, over $400. I shot and shot that little C1 carbine. I shot it so much that the cocking became very easy and the trigger smoothed out. I even took it apart and gave it a lube tune that actually did improve the firing behavior. This was in the days before affordable chronographs, so I didn’t know how fast the little gun shot. What I mean by that is — I was satisfied.
I even stumbled on the artillery hold with that C1 and was so surprised that I wrote an article about it and sent it to Dr. Beeman for his newsletter. I never heard from him, so I figured the article was a bust. Little did I know what loomed on the horizon! Keep that in mind as I continue my story.
I actually got rid of the first R1 because I had a better rifle. At the same time she gave me the R1, Edith also gave me a used HW77K carbine that someone had tuned to perfection. It was heavier than the R1, but it didn’t recoil and the accuracy was stunning — especially with my new artillery hold. For a couple years, I continued in that direction. Then the airgun magazine I just subscribed to went belly up, and I was suddenly cut off from a hobby I was growing to enjoy.
Edith suggested that I write an airgun newsletter of my own; and when I told her I didn’t know anything about airguns, she asked me to write the titles of the articles I thought I could write. Three legal tablet sheets later, I had enough titles for the first two years of a newsletter — and The Airgun Letter was born.
A year into the newsletter, Edith and I were talking about things I could write and a thought dawned on me. We could buy a Beeman R1 and test it from brand new through the first thousand shots — the same thing any owner would do. Then I could tune it several ways and write even more articles. I could examine the Rekord trigger and mount a scope. In short, I could do all the things any airgunner would do with a new air rifle, only I could also write about it and photograph things as I went. The newsletter would virtually write itself!
This time, I resolved not to make the same mistake as before in buying the wrong caliber. The R1 is best-suited to a .22-caliber pellet because of its power, so that’s what we got — a brand new Beeman R1 in .22 caliber to test and write about. My writing career suddenly became much easier and more fun at the same time.
The rifle arrived, and I tested and recorded it throughout the 1,000-shot break-in. Then, at a thousand shots, I started to disassemble the rifle for a lube-tune when I discovered that one of the stock anchor flanges that the forearm screws attach to was broken off the spring tube. The rifle had to be returned to Beeman!
The rifle went back and Beeman welded the flange back on the tube. That didn’t bother me. But they also gave the rifle a moly tune, since all lubricant had to be removed for the welding. I was crushed! My test control had been destroyed by an act of kindness and generosity! When I talked to Don Walker at Beeman and explained what I was doing, he reluctantly agreed to send another new rifle. So the gun that I am reporting on today is that second .22-caliber Beeman R1.
It was fired and tested for another thousand shots, and I now had two new guns that had gone through the same break-in. That made the report, titled R1 Homebrew, all the more interesting. When the number of newsletter installments grew to nine, I knew I could write a book and that’s where the R1 book came from.
Well, that’s enough of the history of this rifle for now. What kind of air rifle is the Beeman R1? First of all, it got the name Supermagnum from the fact that it was the first spring rifle to break the thousand foot-per-second barrier in .177 caliber. It was initially advertised at 940 f.p.s. in .177 caliber, but within months that climbed to an even 1,000 f.p.s. Then Beeman came out with a special Laser tune that took the rifle up to 1,100 f.p.s. — a seemingly untouchable velocity. It could actually shoot lead pellets faster than the speed of sound!
When it was new, the R1 was considered a massive air rifle. Weighing nearly 9 lbs. and over 45 inches long, it was larger and heavier than most centerfire rifles. Today, we’re overwhelmed with magnum air rifles and these dimensions don’t seem so large — but they still come as a shock to anyone who’s never experienced a magnum spring rifle! In fact, I worry that we lose a lot of new potential airgunners who, upon experiencing one of these monsters for the first time, decide to do something else for recreation.
The R1 is made for Beeman by Weihrauch. The R1 was designed by Robert Beeman, who employed a CAD engineer just for the task of designing the gun. The agreement he made with Weihrauch was that Beeman owned the R1, but Weihrauch was free to market the same action in a European stock under the model name HW80. The 80 in that model name refers to the length of the piston stroke in millimeters. The R1 was a redesign of the HW35, which you now understand has a piston stroke of 35mm. That explains where the tremendous power of the rifle comes from. It’s not the piston diameter, though that is large, and it’s not the mainspring, though it’s also very powerful. It’s the long stroke that generates the awesome power.
Being a Weihrauch gun, the R1 comes with the Rekord trigger that many of you recognize as one of the top sporting airgun triggers. Ivan Hancock based his Mach II trigger on the Rekord. It’s a sporting trigger of even greater adjustability and finesse than the Rekord. And the Air Arms trigger that’s found in the TX200 is also a close cousin to the Rekord.
Cocking effort on a stock R1 begins at over 50 lbs. of effort; but after a thousand-shot break-in, it usually drops to around 46 lbs. In its day, that was a lot of force to cock a rifle. Today, it’s on the low side for magnum rifles. I personally don’t even like to do that much work, so I’ve tuned my R1 down to less effort while still retaining most of the power. That long piston stroke does a lot for you!
Compared to today’s modern air rifles, the R1 seems like a traditional old-school gun. Although the stock is made of beech, not walnut, it’s nicely checkered and well-shaped. The finish is a modern synthetic that takes a shine after being handled awhile. The bluing used to look matte to my eyes when compared to guns like the Webley Mark III, but in today’s market it is a standout deep black with a good polish.
Back in the day, R1 guns came with fine, adjustable Weihrauch open sights and the front globe took inserts. Those days are gone for economic reasons and also because the majority of buyers will scope their rifles immediately. All veteran Weihrauch owners like me have a drawer filled with take-off sights from guns we’ve owned in the past.
I tested two new .22-caliber R1s for my articles, and they both performed similarly, though the second rifle was slightly more powerful. When new, it generated above 19 foot-pounds with RWS Hobby pellets; and after 1,000 shots, it dropped to 18.4 foot-pounds. That’s an average of 838 f.p.s. for the light Hobby pellet. The cocking effort decreased to 46 lbs. at this point, but the gun hadn’t been lubricated yet.
I then stripped the rifle and gave it a standard moly lube job, putting moly on the thrust washers that ride between the base block and the action fork. The cocking effort dropped to 39 lbs., and the power dropped to 16.98 foot-pounds with Hobby pellets.
I’d used Beeman Mainspring Dampening Compound on the mainspring in this tune; and when this compound was removed, the cocking effort remained at 39 lbs. and the power increased to 17.47 foot-pounds. Some vibration crept back in, and the recoil felt a little heavier — but it was still better than the broken-in gun before the tune.
One last thing
My rifle has the Vortek adjustable muzzlebrake for tuning a spring gun. I’d forgotten that I put it on this rifle. Maybe I can do some tuning during accuracy testing?
I’m going to tell you where my R1 is now, with regard to tunes, in the next report. It won’t be the report of a brand-new airgun; but if you want one like it, the model is still being sold. All you have to do is put about 20,000 shots on i,t and you’ll have one that’s as well-used as mine.
I’ll show you the velocity and power of the rifle as it’s now tuned, plus I’ll give you an historical look at several past tunes that have been noteworthy.
Finally, I’ll show you the accuracy you can expect from this rifle. In the time since I last shot it seriously, there have been vast improvements in pellets. We may be in for some surprises.
by B.B. Pelletier
Guy Roush is the BSOTW — for the second time.
Today, I was supposed to show you a thrilling “fix” for a recent problem I’ve been having with an unnamed but very popular airgun. That pins it down, doesn’t it?
I won’t tell you what I’m working on because the work is not yet done. I need more time. You see, a lot of the time, I guess right about something and it turns out well, so I can report it as I fix it. That didn’t happen today. Today, it all went south and, for the life of me, I could not figure out why. Oh, I’ll figure it out in time, but I can’t report an unsuccessful project while I’m in the middle of it, because many of you get anxious for me. Then, you start giving me suggestions and before we know it, some of you are inventing alternate universes in which everything turns out fine (as long as gravity is cancelled and we all walk on our hands!).
Well, I don’t want that. I don’t want it for you, and I sure don’t want it for me!
So, today I laid down my work and took a break because I was so stressed that I couldn’t hold a quarter-sized group with a gun that can usually hit Roosevelt’s head on a dime every time. I needed to back away from the problems I’m having with this gun and allow some time to pass before I tackle it again.
So, instead of me revealing yet another mystery that’s been solved, I would like to share some of my not-so-random thoughts with you.
First thought — bent barrels
For years, I’ve been wondering about bent airgun barrels. I’ve seen them and I know what can cause a barrel to bend, but also I know that there are several airgunners who are bending their barrels purposely to avoid the trouble of shimming their scopes or using adjustable scope mounts. Let’s call that “corrective” bending.
Bent barrels are such a problem that everyone talks about them. Over the years, I’ve seen several airgun barrels that were bent. The ones I’ve seen were all bent the same way. Someone broke open a breakbarrel and fired it with the barrel broken open. The barrel snaps up violently and bends upward at the point where it enters the baseblock. Shooters who have done this have told me it was an accident, but I believe they did it intentionally — just to see what it would look like.
At any rate, the barrel always bends the same way when this happens. And I know that many airgunners would like to know how to straighten (or correctively bend) their barrels. And they want to be able to do it without disassembling their guns — naturally!
I’ve read in books that you can see a bent barrel by how the light shines through it. Mac has told me that he’s straightened many airgun barrels and that it’s always possible to see the bend in the barrel by looking through the b0re at a stro0ng light source. I have certainly seen a bent barrel from the outside, but I have never seen what one looks like when looking through it like the books describe.
What can I do about all this? Well, how about I take a picture of the inside of a breakbarrel barrel before it is bent? And how about I shoot some groups with it and note where the point of impact is, relative to the aim point?
And then how about I intentionally fire the gun with the barrel broken open, and show what happens? More photos of the inside of the barrel, just to see what a bent barrel looks like from the inside. Then I try to shoot the same gun with the same sight setting and note where the pellet now impacts. This last part may be difficult, because the barrel can be bent up so far as to render the gun impossible to aim, so we may have to take this one as it comes.
Second thought — barrel straightening (and bending) jig
I’ve designed a very simple yet (I hope) effective barrel bending jig that can be made by anyone out of common stuff found at a hardware or home improvement store. And it should be able to work on an airgun with no more disassembly than taking the action out of the stock. So, after I bend the barrel of the test rifle, how about I use the homemade jig and (hopefully) bend the barrel straight, again?
Dave Schwesinger (of Air Rifle Specialists) said he used a picnic table to straighten his barrels. Kevin uses a willow tree, so my jig isn’t up against stiff competition for elegance.
If it works, I have a follow-on experiment. I own two breakbarrel springers that both shoot higher than the sights can compensate for, even though I can see no evidence of bent barrels on either one of them. If my jig works, how about I bend their barrels slightly down to get them to the point of aim again? And then conduct an accuracy test (before and after, of course) to see if a bent barrel can be accurate.
We know that bent firearm barrels are not accurate; because as they heat from firing, they “walk” their shots. But airguns don’t heat up as they shoot. Several years, ago Feinwerkbau actually made a 10-meter target pistol with a barrel that wrapped around the CO2 cylinder as a sort of joke. The joke was that pistol is just as accurate as a regular 10-meter pistol — or so says Robert Beeman. Well, if you can do that with a barrel, I think a slight bend won’t hurt. But I’ll test it, of course.
Even twisted in a spiral like this, this FWB C20 barrel still shoots straight. Image courtesy Blue Book Publications, Inc.
Third thought — reflections on the first two
This idea about reporting on airgun barrel bending has been brewing inside me for awhile. But I have some misgivings at the same time. What I don’t want to do with this, or any unusual procedure that I report in this blog, is to start a herd of lemmings all racing to bend their airgun barrels. Maybe 99 percent of you will take what I say with the grain of salt it deserves, but there’s always that lunatic fringe that likes to seize these concepts and race over the edge of the cliff with every new and unnatural thought that comes along.
Back in the 1990s, there was a trend of cutting off springer barrels in the hopes of making them shoot faster. The Cardew book demonstrated that a short barrel is all that’s needed to achieve top velocity in a springers, and the experts went to work quickly to say that any barrel length after the optimum velocity was reached just slowed the pellet back down again. Thousands of great barrels were ruined this way, and I think this is where some of the interest in the hillbilly crown job came about. I don’t want to start another trend like that one!
I don’t want to get the following message a year after I publish my report:
“I want to purchase a Frauhocken 500 breakbarrel air rifle, but I don’t want to build a barrel-bending jig. Can you recommend someone who can bend the barrel for me? It would be nice if the gun could just be shipped to them so they can bend the barrel before I get it. Also, have you ever thought of installing a Nitro Piston made for a Walther Talon Magnum in a Bronco? It seems to me that the Nitro Piston will speed up the Bronco just enough to make it interesting; and with the Bronco’s easy cocking effort, this would be the ideal plinker! Just a thought!”
by B.B. Pelletier
The FWB 300S is considered the gold standard of vintage target air rifles.
This is a test I said I would do the next time I got a calm wind day at the range. That day came last Friday, and I took the opportunity to test the FWB 300S at 50 yards with a scope. This test was designed to see if there is any discernible accuracy difference between pellets that are sorted by weight and those selected at random from the tin. If you read part 4, you’ll see that I was surprised to find that these JSB Exact RS pellets I selected for their accuracy had such a variation in weight. I sorted through almost 40 pellets to find 20 that weighed exactly 7.3 grains. Though the weight difference was only four tenths of a grain, it was more than expected and more pellets were affected than I thought.
The JSB Exact RS pellet was chosen because of previous performance demonstrated in part 3. And I had to choose a domed pellet because out at 50 yards no wadcutter can possibly be accurate — I’ve proven that on many occasions in the past.
In part 4, I tested the rifle at 50 yards using the target sights that come on it, and I got two groups of 10 shots each. One was with random pellets taken from the tin. That group measured 1.689 inches between the centers of the two widest shots, while the other was 10 weight-sorted pellets that grouped in 1.363 inches. I didn’t feel that test was conclusive, so I wanted to return with the rifle scoped to see what it could do.
Not only did I mount a scope on the rifle, I also installed a scope level, and on every shot the bubble was leveled. That eliminated the possibility of any cant, so the rifle was always shooting in the same orientation.
The scope hangs over three-quarters of the loading port, making loading a chore. Notice how close together the scope rings are, yet they occupy the entire length of the dovetails. The 300S is not made for a scope! Notice, also, the scope level that was consulted on every shot.
I mounted a Leapers 3-9×50 scope with AO. It’s an older version of the one I linked to, but the specs are mostly the same. Notice in the photo that this scope was almost too long for the rifle, even though it was mounted at the extreme rear of the spring tube.
Where I had used a 3-inch bull target with the aperture target sights, I switched to the smaller 10-meter target when using the scope. The pellets were falling off the target paper anyway and onto the plain backer paper attached to the target frame, because of the large drop of this pellet at 150 feet.
I couldn’t have asked for a better day in which to shoot. Since I was at the range very early, there was absolutely no breeze. The sun hadn’t risen very high, so I didn’t need to shield my non-sighting eye. The rifle rested in the bunny bag dead calm, so altogether this was as perfect a test as I could have run.
Bore already seasoned
Because the bore had been shooting JSB Exact RS pellets last, it was already seasoned for this test. Still, I did shoot the rifle a few times to wake up the action. Then, I began the first group of unsorted pellets.
This time, the pellets did very poorly — grouping 10 shots into 3.152 inches at 50 yards. The group is very elongated, looking like a large velocity swing. The group measures just 1.178 inches wide, which is less than half the height.
Next, I shot the pellets that were sorted by weight. Ten went into a group measuring 1.606 inches across. This group is fairly round and well-distributed, so it makes me wonder all the more about the first group. Perhaps the gun needed longer to warm up for the first group than I allowed?
Test is not conclusive
I’m declaring this entire test invalid. I think I’ve stretched the FWB 300S beyond its capability, and the results are not telling me what I need to know. I’m aware that others have shot 10-meter rifle at 50 yards and say they’ve gotten good results, but clearly I’ve not been able to do the same with this rifle.
I think the test itself is worth pursuing, but with a rifle better-suited to accuracy at 50 yards. Pushing the FWB 300S outside its comfort zone was not a good idea. But I have several accurate air rifles that are all capable of grouping well at 50 yards. That’s what I need to rerun the test.
by B.B. Pelletier
I was in Wal-Mart the other day and a guy was looking at the airguns, so I struck up a conversation. He was looking at a Crosman M4-177 for eliminating pest birds; and when I tried to steer him toward a more powerful breakbarrel in .22 caliber, he had a fit over the price. Apparently $145 is the Rolls Royce of airguns for him!
So, today I thought I’d reflect a bit on the cost of things — some expensive and some cheap, but all very good. We have a growing contingent of firearms shooters who have found this blog and I’m doing this for them.
The most expensive?
Well, let’s be realistic. There’s only one air rifle that was carried by Lewis & Clark, and Dr. Beeman has donated it to the U.S. Army War College museum. It’s value is well over a million dollars; but since there’s only one, it doesn’t really count in today’s discussion.
I’m also not talking about the collectible airguns that are available in greater numbers. A complete Plymouth Iron Windmill BB gun, the predecessor to the Daisy line, has commanded as much as $10,000. But second model Daisys are even rarer, because they were so prone to break. I’ve seen one change hands for $16,000, and that was close to a decade ago. But, for today, I want to talk about guns that are generally available.
When Edith and I bought our JW75 with four barrels and the Harmonic Optimized Tuning System (HOTS) on each of them, the cost was $2,100. That was in 1996. The cost did increase after that; but when John Whiscombe stopped making his rifle several years ago, the price took off like a rocket. Today, it’s hard to find a single-barrel Whiscombe rifle with no frills for under $3,000, and full sets like ours will certainly bring a lot more.
You can’t buy a new Whiscombe rifle anymore, so used rifles command top dollar.
So, are Whiscombes the most expensive air rifles? Hardly. There are all sorts of custom airgun makers around the world who offer almost whatever the traffic will bear. I’ve seen single rifles in Europe priced at over $8,000, and that was five years ago. Who knows where it all ends? The point is, air rifles can cost a bundle if that’s what you’re looking for.
Back to earth, some of the more expensive production air rifles today are made by the target rifle companies, where top models retail for nearly $3,000. And they’re built for a specific purpose — not for general shooting. The FWB 700 Alu, for example, is a very expensive air rifle that cannot be used for most popular airgun pursuits like hunting and plinking. But for punching holes in paper, it’s one of the best. The same can be said for top target rifles from Steyr, Walther, Anschütz and a couple others.
For the sport of field target, it’s difficult to top the Air Arms EV2 precharged competition rifle. It has won and placed at the world level many times in recent years and is one of those rifles shooters tend to covet.
In sporting rifles, Daystate and FX Airguns are among the most expensive brands. And now their top models are around $2,000 or less. Fifteen years ago, the number of makers of these rifles was much greater, but many brands have left the market.
Do you have to spend so much?
Of course you don’t! There are plenty of fine air rifles that cost considerably less than those mentioned and still deliver a boatload of options and value. But that isn’t today’s topic. We’re looking at the most expensive and the least expensive.
How low can you go?
Speaking of the least expensive, what can you get for very little money? How about a Beeman P17 pistol? For under $50, Pyramyd Air will sell you an air pistol that’s so accurate you cannot outshoot it — I don’t care who you are. This is a pistol that you can learn on and use to take your handgun shooting to the next level. For the life of me, I cannot fathom why Beeman doesn’t triple the price and bring this out as a pseudo-10-meter target pistol! All the foundation is there. Gamo did the same thing with their Compact pistol, and this one costs one-fifth as much! They could easily add target grips and sights and have a wonderful, inexpensive target pistol, but I guess they just don’t see the potential.
I wish I had an air rifle to list for under $100. They exist, but none of them are what I would call really exemplary. But the Air Venturi Bronco is the finest low-cost air rifle I know of. It has accuracy equal to or better than a Beeman R7, a great trigger, nice size and is generally a fine rifle for older youth and adults.
The bottom line
And now you’ve guessed my agenda with this report. It wasn’t just about the most expensive and the least expensive. The guns I listed are also among the best of their types in the world. Sure, I could compare the Benjamin Marauder to some of the expensive PCPs and make a case for it being just as good functionally, but that wasn’t what this report was about. It was to define the limits of cost in our hobby for all the new readers who come over from the world of firearms.
by B.B. Pelletier
The FWB 300S is considered the gold standard of vintage target air rifles.
Before we start, a word about some of the airguns shows that are coming up. First there is this:
Pacific Airgun Expo
March 10 & 11, 2012
Placer County Fairgrounds
Roseville, CA (just NE of Sacramento on Hwy 80)
Contact Jon Brooks Don Reed (corrected 3/6/12)
Call 916-564-5225 (corrected 3/6/12)
LASSO big bore shoot
March 17, 2012
Terry Tate’s farm
Near Sulphur Springs, TX
This one isn’t well advertised.
Flag City Toys That Shoot
April 14, 2012
Lighthouse Banquet Facility
10055 S. R. 224 West
Findlay, OH 45840
Contact Dan Lerma, 419-422-9121 or email@example.com
NRA Annual Meetings
April 13-15, 2012
St. Louis, MO
This is like a mini SHOT Show that’s open to the public. It has a 10-meter airgun range (run by Pyramyd Air) for shooting manufacturer-supplied airguns (there’s a charge for shooting). Free to NRA members, $10 for non-members. Click for website. Pyramyd Air is giving away free tickets to the show. If you’re not an NRA member and want to get in for free, read the announcement on their facebook page and follow the directions.
April 27-28, 2012
Malvern, AR 72104-2005
Contact Seth Rowland, 501-276-1535 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Seth is still accepting table reservations, so contact him if you want to reserve a sales or display table.
Okay, on to today’s report.
I didn’t think this day would come so soon, but I’m going to show you what happens when you shoot the FWB 300S at 50 yards. Or more correctly…when I shoot it! I say that because 50 yards is a distance at which all false pretense of accuracy falls away. Fifty yards is a harsh challenge for a 650 f.p.s. air rifle like the 300S. All the wonder of those tiny groups at 10 meters becomes doubt that you can even shoot this far when the range stretches out more than four times as far.
I needed a windless day and as luck would have it, I got one. Or at least one where what little breeze there was could easily be managed. When I got set up to shoot, it was about 8:15 a.m., and the breeze was running from still to an occasional puff of about 1 m.p.h.
I used the sandbag rather than the rifle rest because I already knew the 300S did well on it. I first fired about four rounds to warm the action and to “awaken” the mechanical parts. I’ll talk a lot more about that in a PCP primer I’m writing, but even spring-piston guns have to wake up if they’ve sat for more than a couple hours.
I’m shooting the JSB Exact RS pellet for this test. We all agreed that to test the gun with wadcutters at this range would be unfair, because wadcutters are known to be inaccurate after about 25 yards. And the RS pellets proved to be the most accurate domed pellets in the accuracy test I did.
For targets, I wanted to use the 50-foot timed and rapid-fire pistol targets that I always use at 50 yards. The bull measures just larger than 3 inches, which is a good size for most peep sights at 50 yards. I like these targets also because they measure 10.5″x12″, which gives a lot of room for the pellets to miss the mark and still be seen. I knew the pellets would drop when going 50 yards, and I’d planned to stack two targets — one above the other, so I could aim at the top bull and possibly hit somewhere on the target below. But I only had two of these targets! I’d failed to pack enough of the right kind of targets in the range box. Though I had plenty of targets, only two were what I wanted.
No problem, I thought. Years ago, I figured if this ever happened I would use 10-meter pistol targets instead of these larger targets. They’re on smaller paper, but I could still place one above each larger target to use as an aim point. Ten-meter pistol targets have a bull that measures 2.35 inches across. It looks similar to the larger bulls when you look at them casually, but at 50 yards the difference through the sights is noticeable. They’re too small in the front aperture, which leads to possible aiming errors. I could see that on the first group I fired and also when I examined the group afterwards.
As I predicted, the group dropped about eight inches at 50 yards, so the group was printed on the target below the one I aimed at. I knew that the smaller bull was too small to work well at this distance. But there was another way of doing this.
I still had two of the 50-foot timed and rapid-fire targets stapled to the target backer; and underneath everything, I’d stapled a 2′x4′ sheet of plain target paper. It’s the back of a silhouette target that I always use when I’m unsure of where my bullets or pellets will go. The plain light paper allows me to see the holes even though they don’t strike the intended target. Because it’s so large, it covers the entire target backer; so, unless the rifle is really out of whack, I’ll see where the pellets are going.
Then, I proceeded to shoot another 10-shot group of unsorted pellets at the larger bull on the left, knowing that they would strike the plain target paper below this target. They landed about two inches below the target and gave me a perfect group of 10 on the plain paper.
This time, the bull was filling the front aperture as it should, so the group was much better. It measures 1.689 inches between centers. Remember, this is a 10-shot group. It’s about 40 percent larger than a 5-shot group fired under similar conditions. That doesn’t mean that it’s exactly 40 percent larger; and, yes, it’s possible for the first 5 shots to land the farthest apart, so that a 10-shot group doesn’t grow any larger. But the probability that you’ll do that is very low. If you keep on shooting after 5 shots, it’s more likely that your group will continue to enlarge until it’s, perhaps, 40 percent larger after 10 shots than it was after the first 5.
Some notes on sorting the pellets
I had sorted the JSB pellets the evening before going to the range. Because JSB pellets are so accurate, I thought they’d also be very uniform, but they weren’t. To get 20 pellets that all weighed 7.30 grains, I had to sort through almost 40 pellets! The weight ranged from 7.10 grains to 7.40 grains. While that isn’t as large a spread as other pellets, it was still a surprise. I thought I might find two or three pellets that didn’t weigh the same, but it was worse than that.
By this time it was around 9 o’clock, and the breeze was picking up. I had to wait for breezes of 3 m.p.h. to die before shooting. When they did die, though, the air was perfectly still again. This time, 10 pellets that were sorted by weight grouped in 1.383 inches. That isn’t much better than the unsorted pellets, and it was not the result I’d expected.
Ten-shot group of weight-sorted pellets at 50 yards made this 1.383-inch group. Not much improvement over the unsorted pellets! You can see a very small 5-shot group at the left of the larger group. That group measures 0.577 inches between centers, but I can’t say that it indicates anything.
This test didn’t turn out as I’d expected. Either the weight of the pellets doesn’t matter that much, or something else was happening to skew the results. I think I may know what that something is. It was apparent as I shot that I was unable to detect any slight canting of the rifle. There’s no bubble level on this rifle. And look at all three targets. They’re all wider than they are tall, which is a giveaway that I was canting the rifle randomly. In fact, this is such a telling result that I believe I have to rerun this test, just to eliminate the cant!
I’ve conducted a host of special cant tests in the past to learn about the effects of canting the rifle; plus, when I shoot my Ballard rifle — which has a bubble level attached to the front sight, it’s always difficult to center the bubble because it’s so sensitive. So, canting is a known problem with which I have some experience.
By the time I completed the group of weight-sorted pellets, the breeze had picked up and the day of testing this pellet rifle at 50 yards was over. But like I said, I’m not satisfied with these results and will have to run the test again. Next time, I’ll mount a scope, just for the additional precision it will give, plus it’s lot easier to use a bubble level with a scope than with a peep sight.